To me, birth stories are kind of like, I don’t know, Christmas music. The only time I can really stand birth stories (Christmas music) is right before I’m about to give birth (celebrate Christmas), when I’m suddenly really really into them. In fact, a few minutes before I went into labor with Alton, I was lying in bed (okay, awkwardly wedged into my snoogle), reading stories of natural births, trying to psych myself up. So, because reading the stories of other mothers was maybe what finally convinced this kid to be born – after going a week past my due date and trying all the stupid things people tell you to do to induce labor – I thought I would share mine here. It’s gross, like they all are, and it’s beautiful, or it is if you’re about to have a baby anyway, and most of all, it’s very, very brief.
Now, I would like to say here that everything about this pregnancy was different than my first. When I was pregnant with Harper I was a glowing and magical beast. I put in hours of prenatal yoga and swimming. I felt wonderful right up until the instant my labor started. It was a completely textbook labor, contractions starting about 10 minutes apart and then getting closer together and more intense, and I breathed and om-ed my merry little way for about 6 hours, when we calmly took a car to the hospital and, with the help of my midwife and a fantastic labor nurse and the spirits of birthing women everywhere, I delivered Harper naturally (well, drug-free anyway – “naturally” sounds so accusatory). The whole thing took 12 hours, not so bad for a first baby. Afterwards I was really uncomfortable due to a lot of tearing but that was sort of the worst of it. “Let’s have another!” we said to each other over Harper’s greasy little head. “Let’s have a million!”
This time was different. I was much sicker in the beginning, much more uncomfortable and tired and achy throughout. At our 20-week sonogram we learned that I had something called a velamentous cord insertion. This means the umbilical cord wasn’t connected very firmly to the placenta, but rather was sort of semi-attached to the uterine wall. I’m no doctor, but doesn’t that sound BAD? Isn’t the placenta where the baby gets NUTRITION? Everyone kept saying, “It’s nothing serious, we just have to keep checking to make sure he’s growing.” And we’d say, “Hmmm okay, but what if he doesn’t grow?” And they’d be like, “Oh, it’s fine, don’t worry about it.” But really if he didn’t grow there was the chance he’d have to be delivered early via c-section and all sorts of terrible things could happen. And there was also the chance that the cord could be compressed during labor which could result in TERRIBLE THINGS. So we promptly commenced to freak out in a slow-boil kind of way for the following 21 weeks.
But he grew. Isn’t he a clever child? He grew, and by the end there I felt like I was carrying around a bowling ball, and I hurt everywhere all the time, and couldn’t sleep, and couldn’t think, and thank goodness my mom came into town for a month because he ended up being LATE of all things, when Harper was born 4 days before her due date and thus we were all expecting him to come even earlier. But no. 4 days after my due date had come and gone, I miserably visited one of the ob-gyns in my practice (my midwife was on vacation that week, naturally, and I hope she had a REALLY RELAXING TIME) who offered to induce me. This was tempting. I met up with Adam afterward and we walked around Soho making lists of pros and cons. “But what if there’s some reason he hasn’t been born yet?” the annoying hippie in me kept saying. The citified lady on my other shoulder countered, “Make an appointment to induce tonight, everything will be very organized, you’ll know your mom and Harper are all set, you won’t have to wait around all achey and in suspense any longer.” Agh! I reluctantly decided to wait, knowing if nothing else they’d induce me in a week. Keep in mind that a week to an overdue pregnant lady is an absolute eternity.
For days I had contractions that would start and stop, and all the signs of early labor – the stomach upset, the feelings of spaciness, weird unappetizing discharge. I kept thinking, This is it! And no. It was not it. Or else I was actually in labor for like a week, which might very well have been the case.
So on the night of April 6th, when I started having contractions around 10 pm, I was unconvinced. I texted Adam – that’s how unconvinced I was, I didn’t even feel it was urgent enough to actually call – that maybe he should come home (he was working late). A few contractions later I texted my mom: “Sorry if it’s another false alarm.” But soon the contractions were pretty intense and already 3 minutes apart. By the time Adam and my mom arrived, maybe 20 minutes later, I was at that unable-to-speak stage when you know the game is ON. I greeted them graciously (just kidding, I puked and then batted away the coat Adam offered me) and shuffled into the cab Adam had taken home from work and held. And good thing, too, because this kid was seriously almost born in that cab. I was in my right mind enough to be thankful that it was a nice big cab and a very clean one too, because I spent most of the ride on the floor on my hands and knees, biting Adam’s leg.
Seriously, I was transformed into a crazy pregnant lady from the movies, the kind you think is a total exaggeration. “What is taking everyone so long?” was my refrain. The cab ride to NYU took a hundred million years, during which Adam tried to point out the sights and I repeatedly threatened to fucking kill him. At the hospital I demanded a wheelchair (which the cabbie went and got, bless him! Sorry about the amniotic fluid on your nice leather seat, buddy!) and yelled at Adam to go faster as he pushed me through the lobby. The contractions were all on top of each other with no break in between, and my yoga breathing was no match for them. It was just brutal. I almost punched the nurse who languidly checked us in. Why the shit was she asking if I was a vegetarian? “Please hurry,” I said to everyone I saw. They seemed to think I was overreacting. “And on a scale of one to ten, where is your pain?” “I DON’T KNOW!” I said.
Okay, so FINALLY (it was 11:35 or 11:40) I got into a room and they were just strapping all the stuff onto me when I asked to go the bathroom. Now, because of the cord situation it was really important to get the baby on the monitor (which I don’t think ever happened). Anyway, the nurse asked me warily why I wanted to go. She okayed a pee but said not to push the baby out. Okay, right whatever, I promised. The pain was getting really intense now and I think I said to Adam that maybe I should get an epidural after all and he reminded me I didn’t want one. After all, I’d done this before. Which was good, because I wouldn’t have had time for one anyway. Once in the bathroom I dropped to my hands and knees sort of involuntarily and felt a pop and my water broke and then I politely suggested that it might yes actually be time to push. “No no no,” everyone said. “Yes, yes, yes,” I countered.
They got me onto the bed and told me not to push and listen, when a baby is coming and you feel the urge to push, this is a ridiculous thing to hear. It’s like someone shoving your head under water and telling you not to struggle to breathe. Just really beyond your control. Then someone cried out, “She’s bulging!” How vivid! Shudder! Anyway, so whatever random doctor is on call shows up and I scream like the movie-pregnant-lady I am and push out the baby in one or two big pushes and boom, there he is. It was 12:07.
He was a bit purple and didn’t cry for a few moments, but he was great. Just perfect. Lying on my chest with his eyes open and blinking around at everything, taking a moment to reflect before beginning to wail. No one could believe it, including me. The mystery doctor vanished into the night, and a few minutes later the doctor on call from my practice showed up. It must be so strange to watch women go from laboring beasts to regular people again over and over. Soon I was laughing and snuggling the baby and joking with the nurses I’d been wishing death to a few moments before. And what in the world, there was this baby, after so long waiting and so short laboring. I think I’m still in shock at how quickly he was born. It was pretty insane. And what’s best about it is that the recovery has also been super quick! A week later, I feel great. And Alton is such a love.
So, there you go. I guess I managed to make it not that brief after all. And if I ever have another baby, I think it’s a home birth for me. Whether I want it or not. And also: Yay! I’m not pregnant anymore!